Navigate / search

Escape Room – a cross curricular approach to gamified learning in PE!


Today I read a fantastic article describing the use of escape rooms in education to build narrative with learners and increase engagement in the classroom. One of the questions I was presented with at PENZ conference by @CeliaFleck was, what game mechanic do I suggest teachers start thinking about in PE. At the time I responded with the game mechanic “narrative”, but couldn’t quite convey exactly why I thought that. Looking back, I really feel that “narrative” as a game mechanic is a very white hat, internally focused game mechanic which is probably the wording I was looking for at the time.

But what does “narrative” as a game mechanic look like in PE?! I demonstrated a very brief example of how I had created narrative, but that wasn’t much at all. So I have spent a lot of time since then, thinking about how we can use the power of this mechanic to create more meaningful learning experiences for students in PE. I think the article mentioned in the first line of this post could be the answer!

So, what is an escape room? The definition is below, but basically they are an adventure based game for adults where you are locked in a room and cannot escape until you have completed a number of puzzles.

An escape room is a physical adventure game in which players are locked in a room and have to use elements of the room to solve a series of puzzles and escape within a set time limit.

The article above describes how a teacher provides her class with a narrative at the beginning of the lesson where someone has been kidnapped. The students are then presented with a series of boxes with clues and puzzles littered around the room. Within the given time limit, students must complete all of the puzzles to unlock the boxes to get the code which will end the potential threat they are facing. How can we replicate this in physical education??????

I have spent all morning thinking about how I can make this happen, and I think I have nailed it. I started by thinking of all the topics and areas in PE where we could create some form of puzzle or quiz, but our learning area doesn’t suit that approach too well. We could do some biophysical stuff, but I couldn’t really come up with an appealing narrative. Then I considered the junior school, and tried to think cross curricular (Rongotai College are a Sport in Education school which uses integrated learning in a sporting context) which made much more sense. Here is my initial brainstorm:


With this approach I can frame the learning experience around physical activity, but have some good explicit links to literacy and numeracy throughout. The tasks are reasonably challenging, but not so hard that students won’t be able to complete the task in time. The practical component is designed so that students can contribute where their talents are best suited. Not everyone can run well, so some of the faster students may do extra KMs to make up for that. Bigger students who might demonstrate more strength can take a leadership role in the fun component of building a human pyramid. There is also a significant interpersonal skill requirement throughout the lesson. If students can’t communicate well and work as a team the group will fail.

I am keen to see what student time on task will look like. There is the potential for students to not have anything to be doing at a given time period, but I am hoping the time component (“scarcity” game mechanic) will encourage them to contribute in some form or another. Looking further ahead, I would like to incorporate a single task that can only be completed with the participation of all students. Not sure what that could look like just yet.

All thats left to do now is pick up some combination padlocks, some small lockable boxes, and possibly create some task cards explaining the activity. I will feedback with some video once I give it a go! This is going to be fun!


Lynn Hefele

This sounds like a great idea! I think I may use it as an extra-curricular activity that students can complete during recess and after school.


Awesome – let us know how you get on!

Ryan Clark

Hi Karl
Thanks for this. It is great that you were able to clarrify this further from your PENZ presentation.
I used to do something similar with my Intermediate class that we called ‘Mission Impossible’. It was very similar to the ‘Amazing Race’ but they were given coordintes through numeracy problems. However, the components and cross curricular links were not explicit and I did not really provide a ‘Narrative’ other than telling them they had to find the bomb and save the school from blowing up.
Great food for thought and something I can look further into.


Cheers Ryan, great to hear from you and thanks for sharing!

Leave a comment


email* (not published)